Have you ever wanted to take a peek inside the shopping bag of your neighbor? Or maybe check out your boss’ choice of sleepwear? What are your kids’ teachers, your employees, or your ex really shopping for? Now, thanks to Etsy’s soon to be released “findability” feature, you can find out. And chances are good they’ll never even know you snooped. Unless, of course, you decide to post your findings to your facebook friends, your book club, or a few hundred of your closest twitter followers.
Etsy could have chosen to make the feature “opt in”, meaning that each member would need to turn it on themselves, thus insuring they were willing to share their activities on etsy with everyone they know on demand. But despite the pleas of members (see this forum post – note that Admin posts are now shown first by default and not in the order originally posted) the feature will go live for every member who doesn’t specifically opt out. According to Etsy admin Sean11, “If everyone had to opt in in order to be found, this feature would not be very effective. The result would be a poor first-time experience for most members.” Despite over 5200 posts in the thread cited above mostly asking that privacy take precedence over “first-time user experience”, the feature will apparently roll out as originally planned.
Complicating the issue are the newly released Circles & Activities Feed features. Circles allow members to add others to their group, similar to “friending” someone on Facebook, with the exception that members are added with no prior approval. Adding someone to your circle adds many of their etsy activities to your Activity Feed so that you’re notified when they add a shop or item to their favorites, create a treasury, etc. When Etsy added the Circles feature they included an opt out option which many members selected, thinking it would help keep their activities private.
After several weeks, without notice or consent, Etsy decided to make Circles and the Activity Feeds “mandatory” and every member who had opted out was unceremoniously opted back in. Most members are unaware of this development since no notice was given. This has wide implications for the trustworthiness of the opt out option of “findability” and raises questions as to how long it will be before that also becomes “mandatory” and potentially exposes the shopping habits of anyone who has ever created an Etsy account to everyone who has their email address.
So what can you do to add some privacy protection back to your Etsy account?
Currently you can opt out of “findability” at Your Account under the Privacy tab. You can make your Favorites and Feedback private. You may also want to change your email address on file in Your Account to one that is exclusive to Etsy, thus insuring that it will not appear in anyone else’s address book in the event of another policy change. And you can comment below to express your opinion of these new features.
Update February 24: Etsy “Friend Finder” is rolling out and is now live for some members. Those who have the feature will have a “Find your friends” tab in the Circle section of their profile. If you have a gmail.com, yahoo.com or aol.com email address, Find Your Friends will allow you to give Etsy access to your contact list and match the emails within it to Etsy accounts.